The Illusion of Fine Tuning

Note: This was written in response to an apologist who asked for debate and discussion partners on her YouTube channel, but ignored my offer to debate the ID claim of fine tuning, much as she has evaded debates on other topics:

SJ Thomason @Lead1225·15h

Now that I’ve finally figured out how to best show videos on Zoom, I’ll be making more commentaries. If you’d like to see commentary on any #Christian or #atheist videos or debates, let me know. If you’d like to join me in a video, let me know that too! I’m always up for that.

Jeffrey Williams@jswillims21Replying to @Lead1225

Any time. I’m just sitting here under my bridge.2:59 PM · Oct 26, 2019·Twitter Web App

Anyway, here is my response.

Of all the fallacious arguments for intelligent design, fine-tuning of the universe is the most obvious to anyone trained in logic – it is a tautology. You have to assume that man was intended by a designer in order to conclude man is the intent of the designer. It takes a few steps to demonstrate, so I’ll bid goodbye to all the apologists who will dismiss this at this point and stop reading. For the rest of us:

At the moment of the big bang an array of possible physical laws, constants and causal chains existed; all equally improbable – yet the universe had to follow one of these possibilities. No matter which one occurred, it would be just as improbable as any of those that weren’t actualized. And whatever happened along that path simply happened because it was possible under that set of laws, constants and the causal chain. None of this implies intent.

Take the example of the Powerball Jackpot. The chances of any one ticket winning are estimated at about 1 in 292 million. Any one of the millions of players faces astronomically improbable odds, yet ultimately somebody wins.  From this perspective it is obvious to most of us that it is merely a matter of chance. If we were to assume this winner was intended by god, however, it all looks very different in retrospect. We would be tempted to say it is too overwhelmingly improbable that each tiny movement of the balls in the basket could have come about by chance for that particular person to win (or that our universal constants came about by chance in just the way allows man to live), therefore the path of the balls and related conditions must have been designed by god. Yet most of us realize it was simply an accident of chance for the drawing of balls that enabled that particular winner to beat the odds while millions of others lost, although that winner’s chances were no better than the other contestants. It requires a divine act if we consider how impossible it would be to achieve the target result. When we remove the illusion of a target, however, it appears as mere happenstance.

Now you might object that the chances of our universe having just the right constants for life are much higher than 1 in 292 million, and that might be right. There are 26 constants that define our universe, and if some of them were just slightly different the universe would not sustain life. Estimates for the number of possible types of universes vary greatly, from 6 to in the trillions under string theory. But the part that many people fail to grasp is it doesn’t matter. Whether at the beginning of the big bang there were six, 292 million or a trillion possible ways the universe could be configured, one still had to be realized at whatever odds. And once it is realized, the predictive odds no longer matter. We are here discussing this because our universe just happened to be one of those that could sustain life at this point in time. Exactly like our Powerball winner, we are here because the actualized constants allowed us to be. We are an effect of the realized constants. The universe is not here to enable us. In fact, there is no reason to believe the universe is here for any reason at all, just as there is no reason to believe the universe is here to enable our Powerball winner.

As I pointed out at the start, the universe only appears to be intelligently designed from something akin to a narcissistic human perspective, and as with all narcissistic perceptions it is an illusion. The universe had already existed for 14 billion years before we evolved on this planet. Homo Sapiens have been here for about 200,000 years, which isn’t even a nano-second on the cosmic scale, and we won’t be here much longer, although the universe will continue for eons without us. Our outside limit is when either the sun ends in a glorious burst that will incinerate the entire solar system, or when our galaxy finally collides with Andromeda Galaxy, although we are likely to disappear long before that as a result of a large meteor or comet strike, nuclear destruction, or other catastrophic changes to the planet. In total, we were hardly even a blip. In addition, the universe is about 93 billion light years wide. We aren’t even a particle on the cosmic scale. It is inconceivable that all of that was designed just for us. We aren’t even a noticeable feature of the universe outside of our own perspective.

The fine-tuning argument for intelligent design is but a tautology that any college students completing their first year should recognize. We can only conclude the universe was designed for us if we assume we are the purpose of the universe. External to that narcissism, we are but a brief and tiny event enabled by the happenstance of the constants of an oblivious universe.

19 thoughts on “The Illusion of Fine Tuning

  1. The definition for ‘fine tuning’ used in this kind of physical context is, roughly: ‘in the space of possible parameters, initial conditions and laws, the set of universes that permit the evolution of intelligent life is extremely small’.

    How does this definition generate the tautology?

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  2. In another forum you replied:

    “1 is based on a misunderstanding of FT, though I think it is a somewhat unfortunate phrase. But it doesn’t contain agency within it’s definition in the way it’s used by physicists. In that sense it is merely a metaphor.”

    “The definition used is something like of all the possible parameters, laws and initial conditions the set that allows for the evolution of intelligent life is extremely small. There is no tautology in saying ‘Agency best explains our universe being within that small set’.”

    You are right that when used in physics it is a metaphor, although inapt. Science routinely uses metaphors and can run into trouble among those incapable of distinguishing metaphor from literal meaning. Taking “genetic code” literally, for example, leads some to erroneously conclude proof of a coder. Most people take fine tuning in such a literal way, especially as the words themselves imply a fine tuner. I think we will proceed more clearly with your definition, which asserts that the parameters and constants of our universe exist within the narrow parameter which allows for the possibility of life. The question for some becomes: is it more probable that these narrow parameters came about by chance or by an intelligent designer?

    Bayesian Analysis

    Before I get to the issue of tautology, I will further address the use of Bayesian analysis you brought up in another forum because it will help to illuminate the tautology. Lately advocates of Intelligent Design have applied this analysis to show their theory to be the most probable. The link you provided was typical of this attempt and is evidence of how it is being misused.

    Bayesian analysis updates probabilities of events along a causal chain as new data comes to light by comparing two antecedents: a prior probability and a “likelihood function” which calculates the overall probability of a causal chain as new data is discovered. This method is often used to compare competing theories as new data comes along, but only if they contain the same parameters and data set.

    In your linked article the author started out with a more or less accurate framing of the question concerning the creation of approximately twenty universal constants that if changed slightly would disable life as we know it. That puts the important point of comparison just before and in the first few microseconds of the big bang, when those constants and the physical laws of our universe were created and set. The trick he employed, however, was tacitly slipping his analysis to post big bang probabilities, which is an entirely different matter. His example of the coin toss sequence to determine which theory was more plausible, loaded dice or honest throws, is an example of both theories using the same data set and parameters that only existed after the big bang had set those parameters. In that setting, the loaded dice theory is more probable. The problem is that the post big bang theory has nothing to do with the question at hand, where we are talking about the creation of those parameters and constants and is a false comparison. The coin example relies on cause and effect in a rational universe where probabilities exist. The point is that after the big bang, we can only compare possible causal chains to other possible causal chains. The real question is if those parameters and constants created with the big bang are the product of intelligent design or natural chance. Once the parameters are set, we can only compare post-big bang theories sharing the same data set and parameters, which tell you nothing about the creation of the parameters.

    We know that the closer we get to the instant of inflation, the less our physical laws and mathematic formulas explain, and at the moment of inflation our important calculations turn to infinity. This lands us back into the ephemeral realm of imaginary metaphysics, where religious apologists enjoy the freedom to insert their god of the gaps. Without resorting to an intelligent designer, science has two leading theories to explain why our universe contains these precise constants and laws of nature, although we cannot really know anything for certain here.

    1. Multiverse Landscape Theory, which posits many possible universes depending on initial events at the time of inflation. Much of this comes from what we know from string theory, and assumes that there are many different possible formations, each equally improbable, yet the universe has to follow one of these paths. No matter which one, it will appear to have been overwhelmingly improbable, which renders the entire question of probability moot.

    2. Limited Possibilities posits that the universe had few or no other choices due to natural physical constraints, and what appear to be ad hoc constants are really not chance numbers but reflections of physical properties. For example, at the time of Newton the constant of gravity was understood to be the force of gravity weakens as the square of distance. Until Einstein came along, this appeared to be a universal constant. What Einstein proved in relativity is it is merely an effect of the curvature of space and dilation of time and could not be any other number. This gravitational constant is often cited by the advocates of ID, yet we can see that there really was no possibility of it being anything else. The same could possibly be true of all the other assumed constants.
    We are in an area of uncertainty, but we do know certain things about how the universe developed a few moments after inflation. This informs the two theories above and requires no need of supernatural explanation or theory of designer, unless…?

    Tautology

    You also replied: “But phrases like ‘consider that the universe is not aiming at X’ is exactly the question under consideration. To assert it here is to beg the question.”

    I didn’t beg the question, but rather showed the logical fallacy in the argument itself. If we look backward through the causality that brought us about and consider it from the narcissistic viewpoint of humanity, we are astounded at how difficult and utterly improbable it would be to duplicate that causal chain, and thus conclude we had to be designed by a creator. Looking from the actual chain of events from the big bang forward we appear to exist as an effect of chance that, while improbable, is no more improbable than any other direction the chain might have taken. It is only though the assumption of our being the goal of creation that we prove the creator.

    P1. We are the aim of creation
    P2. Our existence is too improbable to recreate
    Therefore: We were created by the entity whose aim we are.

    The conclusion is clearly included in P1. To refute this, you would need to explain how fine tuning through intelligent design differs from my lottery example.

    Larger Context

    The very cosmos itself stands in stark contradiction to the notion that the universe was fine-tuned for our existence. We appeared over 14 billion years after the big bang, and the universe will continue billions of years after we are gone. The universe is 93 billion light years wide, yet we occupy a tiny spec of it for a brief moment. Our unfathomable insignificance in this vastness of time and space, and the very short span during which the fine tuning for our life on earth holds amply exhibit the fault in the assertion that the earth was designed specifically for our existence.

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    1. I’ve tried writing a reply to your analysis of bayes and the pre/post big bang distinction but it’s difficult to untangle the ideas, and I’m short on time. So I’m going to skip it (with apologies), maybe at a later date. Instead I’ll continue to focus on the tautology – which is a mess.

      P1: we are the aim of creation
      P2: our existence is too improbable to recreate
      Therefore: we were created by the entity whose aim we are.

      1) Its invalid – nothing follows from these statements because they are not actual premises that lead to any conclusion. I thought the original blog post suggested that you were trained in logic?

      2) I have never heard anything even approaching this sort of outline or thinking in the FT literature. Who out there is starting their argument *to* theism *from* the premise ‘we are the aim of creation’? Happy to be proved wrong with links (no run of the mill apologists please). Methinks this may be a straw man.

      3) The lottery is certainly very different to the fine tuning as we currently know it. The improbability of a lottery is spread across millions of players. ‘Ultimately someone wins’, of course, and if the numbers were different then someone else would have won. This is exactly what we don’t have with regard to cosmic fine tuning. We don’t know that we have millions of ‘players’ (ie universes). Re-scramble the balls and you are overwhelmingly more likely to come up with a universe that is utterly dead. The more apt analogy is a lottery of one possible winning number and any other number ends in nuclear annihilation of the planet. The balls are called and lo and behold – our lucky friend’s numbers have come up. I would quite like to explore some of the various explanations of this event please, chance doesn’t seem to cut it. Perhaps future multiverse theories will help here (though they raise all sorts of other questions) but even if so, the multiverse isn’t your approach to the probabilities in the original post.

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  3. Those were curious responses. The Bayesian analyses and post big bang explanation were not tangled to begin with, so there was nothing for you to untangle. I suspect your reluctance to support your claim stems from a lack of understanding or of a counterargument.

    Most curious was the snark that accompanied your response to the tautological syllogism. Snark usually accompanies frustration at losing a debate. In this case you somehow attributed the fault of the syllogism to me, not to the fine-tuning argument it represents. My whole point is that it is a fallacy. The only possible objection you could have made is to show that the syllogism misrepresents their argument but you haven’t even attempted that. That you haven’t found the formulation in the literature is irrelevant.

    The worst of your responses concerned the probability of our universe. I think part of that stems from your inability or refusal to grasp the tautology, but here your error goes further. I presented two other theories to account for the universe, multiverse landscape and necessity. Both are derived from scientific observation. Perhaps you aren’t aware that multiverse landscape does predict thousands of universes. It is from that theory I argued that any actual universe is just as unlikely as any other possibility, which precludes arguing on the basis improbability. The necessity theory, which you failed to address at all, argues that the constants are such because nothing else is possible – again removing the issue of probability. None of us at this point know which theory is correct, or if something else explains it, but the demonstration of naturally occurring explanations takes all the power out of the intelligent design argument.

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    1. ‘Snark usually accompanies frustration at losing a debate’ – lol. I just thought snark was part of this convo, just like your use of words and phrases such as ‘attempt’, ‘trick he employed’, ‘imaginary metaphysics’ etc etc. The fault of the syllogism is that it is *only* you who make it! Of course the fact it isnt in the literature is relevant, if its such a fatal blow why aren’t the skeptical philosophers of fine tuning arguments taking advantage of the easy flaws of a tautological claim? In any case, if we look at actual formulations of the argument it is clear that your imagined tautology plays no part.

      Craig:
      P1: the FT of the universe is either due to chance, necessity or design
      P2: the FT of the universe is not due to chance or necessity
      C1: therefore the FT of the universe is due to design

      Cameron Bertuzzi has been posting a lot on FT recently, here’s his formulation, marked out in probabalistic terms rather than purely deductive:

      1: the probability that our universe would be life permitting given naturalism is very very low
      2: the probability that our universe would be life permitting given theism is not very very low
      3: therefore the fact that our universe is life permitting provides some evidence for theism over naturalism.

      I’m not seeing any tautologies. Lots of questions can be asked of the premises, perhaps the arguments are unsound, but if they are it isn’t because they’re circular.

      “I presented two other theories to account for the universe. Both are derived from scientific observation”.

      Yes you did. Both very interesting.

      Multiverse: I am very open to multiverse landscapes. It remains to be seen whether something like string theory comes through on this question. If so, it also remains to be seen whether fine tuning will crop up at the level of the multiverse too. It has so far cropped up in examples at multiple levels of explanation of the best of our physical theories so far. Even so, this is why I would shy away from Craig’s particular formulation, to say that chance (ie multiverse) is *not* the explanation for FT seems a little too strong. On the other hand, Boltzman brain problems and whether the FT question is just shifted up a level seem to me good reasons to be cautious about multiverse solutions.

      Necessity: perhaps the parameters of our universe will fall out of a yet to be discovered deeper theory. In this way they are necessary *given the theory*. But the point is that you are not given that theory. The models suggest that there are many ways to make physically and mathematically consistent universes. The very question we want to know is why *this* universe rather than another. This applies to any ultimate laws, even if they themselves produce the constants and parameters that currently seem arbitrary. If you have a metaphysical principle that would explain why reality *must* favour life permitting universes then we’re all ears, these are exactly the kinds of explanations that need to be thrown in the ring. The parameters falling *necessarily* out of the equation and the *necessity of the equation* itself are two very different things. To quote Hawking ‘’Even if there is only one possible unified theory, it is just a set of rules and equations. What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe?” The kind of necessity you need to solve fine tuning is not something science can give you. You’re in the realm of ‘imaginary metaphysics’ now, it’s fun here!

      Whether these take all the power out of design inferences (which are exactly the same as multiverse or necessity inferences, again, no tautology required) depends on how strong you think these replies are. Multiverse is the most interesting but if FT is simply shifted up a level then we’re back at square one. For example if there come to be multiple theories of generating universes and most of these don’t actually give you the life permitting universes as a reality rather than merely a possibility then little progress has been made. Seems to me that design of the ultimate laws of nature is a rational approach to the question.

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      1. Actually, the syllogism I gave is what Craig’s syllogism reduces to. Let’s look at it line by line:
        P1: the FT of the universe is either due to chance, necessity or design
        P2: the FT of the universe is not due to chance or necessity
        C1: therefore the FT of the universe is due to design
        First of all, it begs the question all together. P1 is probably true. P2 is merely the conclusion in different words. By definition this alone is a tautology on its face, but there is a meta-tautology that is the basis of what I wrote. I’ll explain that below. What Craig needed to do was present the argument for why the universe is not due to chance or necessity since he concludes solely through exclusion of those two possibilities. P2 is the question at hand.
        Bertuzzi’s formulation suffers even further:
        1: the probability that our universe would be life permitting given naturalism is very very low

        (This assumption isn’t necessarily true. Under multiverse theory, any particular instance of a universe is very improbable, but it is certain that each possible instance exists somewhere. Under Necessity no other universe is possible.)

        2: the probability that our universe would be life permitting given theism is not very very low

        (With no proof of a god/creator, this is the least likely option, not the most. Multiverse and necessity build off of known processes and observations. Intelligent design claims an imagined creator via tautology, the existence of which is very very low unless you assume life was intended.)

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  4. cont.
    3: therefore the fact that our universe is life permitting provides some evidence for theism over naturalism.

    As with Craig’s argument, Bertuzzi tacitly assumes that life is the goal of creation and not an accident. Without that assumption, life is no more surprising than carbon or quasars. Once again, only looking backward from the assumption that life was intended does it appear to be designed. And without that assumption the conclusion of design doesn’t follow. That is the meta-tautology underlying both arguments, which reduces to:
    P1. We are the aim of creation
    (Without that assumption there is nothing special about life and therefore life is in no more need of explanation than carbon or quasars. The same as assuming the winner of the lottery was intended.)

    P2. Our existence is too improbable to recreate
    (Because by looking backward and marveling at how difficult it would be to recreate the causal chain that led to life, we imply life was intended. The same as marveling at all the improbable events that had to line up just right for that winner to result.)

    Therefore: We were created by the entity whose aim we are.
    (This conclusion repeats the tacit assumption of Craig and Bertuzzi that the designer aimed for life. The same as assuming the intended winner of the lottery)

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    1. “What Craig needed to do was present the argument for why the universe is not due to chance or necessity”
      That is exactly what Craig does do when presenting this argument. Deductive arguments lay out the structure clearly and set the direction of the discussion. The premises then need defending. We agree that P1 is true (ie the options are exhausted), you say that P2 is the question at hand – Craig would heartily agree! That is exactly what we’re discussing now – how far should we bet on multiverses and necessity over design. Craig gives independent reasons for thinking it isn’t chance or necessity, he doesnt defend P2 on the basis of us being ‘the aim of creation’. So still no tautology here.
      This kind of reasoning is done every day, especially in problem solving fields like medicine. The explanation for patient P’s symptoms is either A, B, C or D. It is unlikely to be A, B or C (for reasons x, y, z) therefore it is more likely to be D. The examples can be as probabilistic or deductive as you like, but the reasoning follows the same structure. The only question is whether its correct, not whether its circular.

      Your critique of Bertuzzi is even more confused. Naturalism here is something like there is no such person as God, or only the natural world exists (however we define the nebulous term ‘natural’). A multiverse is only one such possible world. Naturalism is consistent with a single universe, a universe with one proton, two protons, vast swathes of nothing but quantum fields, a universe filled with nothing but black holes etc etc etc. There is nothing in naturalism (by definition, it seems to me) that would ‘choose’ between the worlds. Any of them seem to be metaphysically possible. So the probability that any particular world is plausibly spread evenly across all of them, following some sort of principle of indifference. Maybe that notion is wrong and we can’t generate those probabilities. Or they do end up favouring life permitting worlds over dead worlds but, again, that is exactly the kind of explanation or principle we are seeking.
      Naturalism says nothing about necessity, unless you would like to build in some sort of metaphysical necessity to the framework. You’re welcome to do so, but not without explaining and defending it. You keep saying that necessity ‘builds off observation’ but the kind of necessity you need to answer fine tuning isnt something you can possibly observe.

      As to point 2, its just reinforcing the fact that you are misinterpreting/misunderstanding how these statements are being put forward. Note: *Given theism*. Imagine that theism is true and try to do it in a rigorous, meaningful way (ie no pathetic sky wizards). Does that hypothesis give us any reason whatsoever to expect the kind of universe we live in. Perhaps it doesn’t, but simply asserting ‘no proof’ is emphatically not how to take this kind of reasoning seriously. We did exactly the same in 1) for naturalism. *Given naturalism* would we expect a life permitting universe to exist, among all the metaphysically possible worlds (because naturalism is a hypothesis at the metaphysical level).

      We’re not ‘assuming life is the goal’ when we think about what kind of worlds theism would plausibly generate in a way that begs the question. We adopt that worldview to see if anything we actually observe fits with that theory. On theism we can see that a perfectly good God could plausibly have reasons for creating moral, conscious life. But its not a *tautology*. “What would I expect if X was true, does that fit my observations?” is a perfectly reasonable approach to thinking about the world. Again it happens every day in fields like medicine. The only difference is that the question of assessing theism and naturalism in these terms is more complex because there is far more ‘data’ (ie the whole world).

      I cant recommend this book highly enough: “A Fortunate Universe” by Geraint Lewis and Luke Barnes. Its honestly the best book I’ve read on the subject. It covers a whole host of objections similar to your own. Lewis argues cogently for a multiverse so I think you would enjoy that.

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  5. I’ll start with your claim:

    “That is exactly what Craig does do when presenting this argument. Deductive arguments lay out the structure clearly and set the direction of the discussion. The premises then need defending. We agree that P1 is true (ie the options are exhausted), you say that P2 is the question at hand – Craig would heartily agree! That is exactly what we’re discussing now – how far should we bet on multiverses and necessity over design. Craig gives independent reasons for thinking it isn’t chance or necessity, he doesnt defend P2 on the basis of us being ‘the aim of creation’. So still no tautology here.”

    Yes, Craig does attempt arguments against necessity and multiverse. I didn’t address them because they aren’t part of the syllogism you presented, but as I do so here, I’ll show they only strengthen my point. The meta-tautology of assuming design to prove design is behind all of Craig’s arguments, along with strawmen and unwarranted assumptions. Craig’s argument against necessity is:

    “A life-inhibiting universe is not only possible but more probable. Constants and quantities are not determined by the laws of nature. There is no evidence or reason to assume fine tuning is necessary.”

    This is barely more than bald assertion, again argued from the premise that life is so special it had to be intended. Without that assumption, its low probability is no more surprising than any other path the universe could have taken with equally low probability if we don’t take necessity into account. And when he does take necessity into account, he merely dismisses it with false statements. While it is true that constants and quantities are not determined by the laws of nature as defined by the resulting laws or our universe, they are determined through chance immediately after inflation and themselves determine the laws of nature. The point is irrelevant anyway to the question of necessity. Finally, there are reasons, such as our evolved view of gravity, to theorize necessity.

    As for chance, he says:

    “Did we just get really really really lucky? No, the probabilities are so ridiculously remote as to put fine tuning well beyond the reach of chance. “

    The probabilities are no more remote than any other possible outcome, and only appear special from the point of view of life. Whether we feel lucky to be here or not has no bearing on our probability and in no way supports design. Without the intention I posited for the lottery winner, this is merely chance. There is nothing in Craig’s statement that implies we needed to come about. Without that presumption, it isn’t really a question.
    And on the multiverse:

    “Small patches of order are far more probable than big ones.”

    We don’t know that is the case throughout the multiverse. We do understand how entropy, slowed by gravity, causes the expansion of our universe toward increasing disorder. Again, he merely tries to keep improbability before us without actually reasoning an argument.

    Without assuming intent his arguments have no power at all. If you don’t like the word “tautology”, then substitute begging the question or petitio principii. No matter what you call it, it is circular reasoning. Unless you assume life is so special as to require a designer, chance is not hard to accept. We aren’t here because a designer for which we have no evidence intended us. We’re here because in one small instance, the universe for which we have evidence brought about the conditions that made us possible.

    Your comparison to medical diagnosis is inapt. In medicine all of the possibilities are known to exist. A creator is merely a metaphysical supposition. No doctor would resort to a metaphysical supposition, such as demons, as a diagnosis.

    Your discussion of Naturalism is a strawman. Instead, I wrote of restricting possible explanations to tangible evidence. There can be no tangible evidence from outside our universe, at least for now. Multiverse theorists, however, are actively looking for tunneling from neighboring universes as well as other searches. Also, multiverse is theorized because what we know of the big bang and string theory allows for it.

    Finally, you wrote:

    “But its not a *tautology*. “What would I expect if X was true, does that fit my observations?” is a perfectly reasonable approach to thinking about the world.”

    That isn’t the question at play here. If that were the question, we would quickly rule out the existence of life for only a brief moment in a miniscule speck of an unfathomably vast universe, disease, poor design of bodies that lead to all sorts of weaknesses and ailments, etc. No designer would have created this universe for the purpose of life. It would be much smaller and more hospitable.

    The question theists such as Craig propose is based on probability of outcome, and that question of probability only arises in respect to the assumption of man as being intended. Shorn of that, it is mere chance.

    I have read “A Fortunate Universe”. It is well written, interesting, and sound from the standpoint of physics. It’s also, however, philosophically naïve, especially toward the end when Barnes clearly resorts to god of the gaps to argue for design.

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    1. Right. So now we’re at a point where we’re simply discussing the argument as its supposed to be debated (P2 being the premise under scrutiny). Your tautology has been shifted back up to a ‘meta-tautology’, whatever that it.

      Let’s lay out the non-design options because they are getting muddled.
      1) Brute fact: there is a single universe and it just so happens to have the values it does. They are life permitting and there is no deeper underlying explanation for this. It just is.
      2) Multiverse: there is a landscape of potentially infinite universes, and along with the weak anthropic principle (ie selection effect) we would not expect to find ourselves in any that could not support life.
      3) Necessity: The universe could not have failed to exist, it is metaphysically necessary. Given that it could not have failed to exist, it is unsurprising that we find ourselves here. This is different to being physically necessary where the various values and parameters are a necessary consequence of the equations that describe the universe.

      “Craig: Did we just get really really lucky, no the probabilities are so ridiculously remote…” This refers to 1, the probabilities suggest that brute fact is so unlikely as to beggar belief. Your response is to suggest that the probabilities are no more remote than any other possible outcome, and only appear special from the view point of life. This is a strange view, have you now turned to denying the fine tuning data all together, or are you confusing 1 and 2? The whole point of fine tuning is to show that the probabilities of a life permitting universe simply existing as a brute fact, from the ocean of possibilities, is remote indeed. It is far more likely that a universe ‘picked at random’ would be life prohibiting rather than life permitting.

      “Without assuming intent his arguments have no force at all”. Except that you haven’t highlighted anything that suggests he’s assuming intent. You’ve quoted just one point against a multiverse, that our universe is much bigger than it needs to be to support life. If we are a random universe among the multiverse then we might expect to be observing a smaller universe as these will be far more numerous than huge universes. You then counter that we don’t know this. Ok, no problem, there is much to learn about multiverse physics. But where is the intent? Either his critique of this aspect of the multiverse is correct or it’s false, there isn’t any ‘intent’ hidden in this.

      “Unless you assume life is so special as to require a designer, chance is not hard to accept” The point of fine tuning is that it shows there is something deeper to explain. Chance based on brute fact is so remote as to be irrational. Chance based on a multiverse is much more reasonable approach and we’ll simply have to wait and see how far we get with it. But the multiverse sprung from the same data (alongside other physical theories, inflation etc etc) – there is something to explain, why does a life permitting universe exist when the vast majority of possibilities are life prohibiting.

      My analogy to medical reasoning is simply to show that the structure of the reasoning is exactly the same as that in Craig’s argument. Either explanation A, B or C. It isnt A or B, therefore it must be C. It isnt circular when we do it (at most we can just be wrong, there was another option or our reasons for rejecting A or B were mistaken) and it certainly isn’t circular in Craig’s outline.

      “No designer would have created this universe for the purpose of life. It would be much smaller and more hospitable” – excellent! Now we’re actually grappling with the implications of theism, and therefore premise 2 of Bertuzzi’s argument. If the universe was smaller it would collapse and wouldn’t not be able to sustain life. More hospitable how? If denser, with air saturating space instead of vacuum, it would again collapse under its own weight before life could form. I find myself in a very hospitable place, I have everything I need, where are you? Why is there disease, ailments, weaknesses? The problem of evil will certainly come into play, how successful it is will depend on how strong the responses/theodicies are. Lot’s to discuss. It’s not at all clear that these sorts of objections take down theism though.

      “The question of probability only arises in respect to the assumption that man was intended”. Nope. Again, it arises because the set of life permitting universes is very small when compared to the set of possible universes. That’s why philosophers and cosmologists of all stripes are interested in the fine tuning data – because it points to something deeper that might explain why this universe exists.

      I’m glad you’ve read it. Though some of your objections are the same as those they deal with in chapter 7. I found their rebuttals very convincing, I’m surprised you still make the same points. It’s also somewhat ironic that you would label Barnes as ‘philosophically naive’ when you are wanting to restrict discussion only to ‘tangible evidence’ and repeatedly confuse different kinds of necessity. Barnes deals with the criticism of God of the gaps directly, you must have missed it. It’s on page 345 🙂

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  6. You must have a lot emotionally invested in this issue because your replies are increasingly strained. Let’s start with this:

    “Right. So now we’re at a point where we’re simply discussing the argument as its supposed to be debated (P2 being the premise under scrutiny). Your tautology has been shifted back up to a ‘meta-tautology’, whatever that it.”

    It was you who took us on a detour with the Craig syllogism. I’ve been addressing P2 from the beginning. My meta-tautology, “whatever that is”, has been my point from the very beginning. You failed to understand it and now claim it is something I “shifted up to”.

    Next, you misstate the necessity theory, although it doesn’t really matter. This theory does not posit anything metaphysical, but rather looks to physical explanations, as it does with gravity, for the necessity of what appear to be mathematical constants.

    As for:

    ““Craig: Did we just get really really lucky, no the probabilities are so ridiculously remote…” This refers to 1, the probabilities suggest that brute fact is so unlikely as to beggar belief.”
    Before you go any further, you might want to familiarize yourself with Craig’s arguments. He makes this claim under 2.

    https://www.reasonablefaith.org/finetuning

    He addresses this at 3:48.

    “This is a strange view, have you now turned to denying the fine tuning data all together, or are you confusing 1 and 2?”

    Again, review the simple video I linked to and then reconsider your response. I’m not the one confusing anything.

    “Except that you haven’t highlighted anything that suggests he’s assuming intent. You’ve quoted just one point against a multiverse, that our universe is much bigger than it needs to be to support life.”

    I certainly have, and repeatedly. All of his arguments come down to probability. He ends each with a reminder of how overwhelmingly improbable our situation is. The problem which you either fail to grasp or refuse to confront is that unless you assume life was intended, the probabilities are of no consequence because either all other possibilities are equally improbable or there was no other option for the universe. Neither implies a need for a designer. This is amply demonstrated in the lottery analogy which you have failed to refute in any coherent manner. I could probably make a better case for design from the point of view of suns since they have been here from almost the beginning and will be the last objects standing, rather than the almost infinitesimally small appearance of man. But both explanations would fail from the same circularity.

    “The point of fine tuning is that it shows there is something deeper to explain. Chance based on brute fact is so remote as to be irrational.”

    Your confusion is evident in this one sentence. While it very well might be that there is a deeper explanation of the fundamental nature of the universe which could resolve the contradictions between relativity and quantum mechanics, that is not the point of fine-tuning. The vast majority of those who profess fine-tuning do so for theistic reasons and have no inkling of deeper structures. Your claim that it is so remote to be irrational is simply an unwarranted assumption.

    “My analogy to medical reasoning is simply to show that the structure of the reasoning is exactly the same as that in Craig’s argument. Either explanation A, B or C. It isnt A or B, therefore it must be C.”

    The above statement perfectly encapsulates your misunderstanding. The fatal deficiency shared by fine-tuning and my demon example is the assumption of a metaphysical invention rather than basing the options on tangible evidence. The method for reasoning is valid in both Craig’s case and those of the medical profession, but Craig’s case rests on an unwarranted assumption. The physicians, on the other hand, would not make the mistake of diagnosing demons.

    “If the universe was smaller it would collapse and wouldn’t not be able to sustain life. More hospitable how? If denser, with air saturating space instead of vacuum, it would again collapse under its own weight before life could form. I find myself in a very hospitable place, I have everything I need, where are you?”

    This is where your desperation is completely exposed. A creator would have created a universe with laws and constants that would not have needed more space than necessary. In fact, Craig’s argument was just the opposite: a smaller universe with low entropy would be far more probable according to him. Again, the confusion isn’t mine. As for being hospitable, life is continuously challenged through external threats and internal weaknesses, and even that will exist for an infinitesimally small moment of time on an unimaginably small spec of space. Your very hospitable space is but a brief flash.

    “It’s also somewhat ironic that you would label Barnes as ‘philosophically naive’ when you are wanting to restrict discussion only to ‘tangible evidence’ and repeatedly confuse different kinds of necessity. Barnes deals with the criticism of God of the gaps directly, you must have missed it. It’s on page 345.”

    I would say you show either your bias or your own naivety here. That Barnes attempted to deal with the objection of god of the gaps in no way implies he did so successfully. If you read more analytically you should realize that all his arguments rest on the claim that we do not know how the constants came about, therefore god.

    Of course I want to restrict the discussion to tangible evidence. Everything is merely imaginary. That is the fundamental flaw behind almost all your responses.

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    1. Nothing invested whatsoever, I just find it interesting. It matters not a jot to me whether the multiverse is found to be true or not, would be a fascinating achievement of scientific endeavor. Lots to respond to here, I suspect we might be moving toward a natural end of the conversation given that we seem to be slowing down on progress with each round.

      First in response to me ‘detouring’ to Craig’s argument, the point is to lay out clearly the argument so that the tautology can be exposed. However the conclusion is not presupposed in either premise. Nowhere does Craig (or Collins, or Barnes, or any other theist discussing this argument) defend either/any premise in the manner of your tautology:

      P1: we are the aim of creation
      P2: our existence is too improbable to recreate
      C1: therefore we were created by the entity whose aim we are.

      Your first premise is no part of theism and not even part of Christianity specifically (regardless of whether certain Christians might think so). Your second premise is based on the ‘chain of events leading from the big bang forward’ but this is not the improbability relevant to FT. The relevant improbability is that in the space of possible universes, the set that permit the evolution of intelligent life is extremely small. And if no one is defending premises in the argument with this approach then they, pretty clearly it seems to me, are not guilty of begging the question.

      ‘The probabilities are of no consequence because all of the other possibilities are equally improbable’ – while this is true is doesn’t get to the heart of the question. The lottery analogy falls short (as I have already replied to). The lottery assumes the same outcome for all possibilities – somebody wins. The improbabilities in FT do *not* all have the same outcome – some universes contain life and the vast majority do not. We don’t need to assume that life is ‘special’ or ‘the aim of creation’ to wonder why it would be that a life permitting universe exists rather than a life prohibiting one, especially when life prohibiting universes seem much more likely if one were to ‘pick one out of a hat’. The relevant analogies spread the improbabilities across regions of varying outcome. Consider all the parts and pieces you need to create a fighter jet. There are vastly more ways of combining the parts that result in a pile of scrap rather than a working plane. Of all the possible combinations, the set that result in a working fighter are vanishingly small. If the jet was to come to life and ponder at its existence, it seems clear that the options that would explain why this particular combination rather than some other would either be design, chance (all/most combinations of parts are out there somewhere so one in particular was likely to be a working plane etc) or necessity. That we know fighter jets are designed in our world is not relevant to the analogy.

      This is a confusing reply: ‘while it might be that there is a deeper explanation of the fundamental nature of the universe which could resolve the contradictions between relativity and QM, that is not the point of fine tuning. The vast majority of those who profess fine tuning do so for theistic reasons and have no inkling of deeper structures. Your claim that it is so remote as to be irrational is simply an unwarranted assumption.’

      Firstly, you agree with me that it may very well point toward deeper answers, and yet you claim that I am confused. I couldn’t give a hoot what ‘the vast majority [of theists]’ think, if this even is, in fact, what the vast majority think. What relevance does that have to our conversation? I’m perfectly happy with inklings of more complete physics, I would heartily welcome it. No unwarranted assumptions were made, however. If we consider the improbabilities that physicists talk about, the cosmological constant for example precise to 110 orders of magnitude or whatever it might be, clearly these are not the sorts of numbers one would take in one’s stride in every day life. We do not consider these improbabilities to be the product of mere brute fact, that is why we look for other explanations. Perhaps these probabilities are wrong, in which case I am merely mistaken, but they are not unwarranted and they are not an assumption. You said yourself the physics of ‘A Fortunate Universe’ was fine, it is precisely from this kind of work that this kind of claim is generated.

      It has been a while since I interacted with Craig’s arguments and you really had me going with his quote on ‘chance being ridiculously remote’. As it turns out my memory served me well, the quote is indeed in section 2, but it is a prelude. He goes on to say something to the effect ‘in order to keep this option [chance] alive, some have posited a multiverse’ etc. Chance on the hypothesis that there is a single universe is indeed ridiculously remote. Chance on the hypothesis that there are potentially infinite universes in a multiverse generate the kind of answer we would need to motivate an answer to FT. What was the phrase you used – ‘if you read [listened] more analytically’ you wouldn’t have missed that…

      ‘A creator would…’ how do you know this, what justifications can you offer? Seems strange to me to be so confident in the motives of a being you (presumably) find implausible. All the theist needs is the possibility and plausibility of basic reasons a creator might have, in order to generate the basic theist hypothesis. It seems relatively uncontroversial to suppose that a perfectly good being could plausibly want to bring about a universe that is the stage for genuinely meaningful moral action and virtue, a universe of spectacular beauty, order etc etc. But now we really are into the realm of philosophy, something we clearly share different thoughts on so I don’t hold out much hope to see eye to eye here. I won’t even attempt to reply to the baffling statement that ‘everything is merely imaginary’ lol. Good luck in trying to justify that sentiment using a merely imaginary rationality.

      We differ on our conceptions of how the probabilities should be interpreted, how ‘tangible’ evidence plays in (at the moment it’s input is pretty much zero) and what a good analogy of FT looks like. I’m sure you will show where you think I fall short but this seems a good place to bring things to their end. Thank you for a genuinely stimulating, sometimes salty, but ultimately enjoyable conversation 🙂

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      1. I’m happy to let you have the last word on this and let readers make up their own minds. I really am grateful to you for your interaction here and also enjoyed our conversation. Please feel free to comment on any other topics here.

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  7. I think the problem with your lottery analogy is that it’s assuming that all outcomes are equal. But is that really the case? In the probability space of possible universes the vast majority result in universes that simply cannot harbor any kind of life at all, forget hypothetical silicon based lifeforms or alternative evolutionary trees, you can’t have life when there’s one atom per observable universe, or if the universe collapses in on itself before stars can form and enrich the matter into heavier elements.

    So lets look at it properly. Imagine you just set up a lottery, 7 balls that are selected from a range of 1-50. Now on the first draw out comes 1,2,3,4,5,6,7. That would create considerable more notice than if it had been 3,45,13,22,27,31,21. Why? Because the first selection has intrinsic order and meaning and the second doesn’t. If you were picking between the two and you were asked which is more likely to be the result of a malfunction in the selection process which would you pick? The first, obviously. They both have completely equal probabilities of having been selected being around one in a hundred million but one is intuitively more suspect than the other.

    That’s the scenario we find ourselves in. The universe is ordered in such a way that it can create this magnificently complex process of enriching hydrogen clouds into materials that come together to create conscious beings with locomotion. That’s pretty crazy. Given the facts I think it’s entirely reasonable to remain open to the idea that the universe is the result of a deliberate process and not natural randomness. After all the only reason to reject theism is a prior metaphysical commitment to naturalism.

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  8. Your objection was addressed above, but I’ll restate it here in different words. You make two fundamental errors.
    1. Your attempt to bring Bayesian analysis back in errs in that your incorrect parallelism mixes two sets of parameters and data sets. For the lottery, Bayesian analysis can update probabilities of sequence once the parameters of the game are set defined, in this case number of balls, number of digits, etc. Once that is done, the sequences of results are all under the same parameters and in the same data set, but this tells us nothing about how the parameters came about. The parallel would be that once the constants of the universe are formed, we can perform Bayesian analysis on probabilities of subsequent sequences, but this tells us nothing about the probability of the constants themselves. For that, the parameters and data sets would include the existence of constants of all other universes.
    2. Second is the error of imputing intrinsic meaning where there is none – the same error that leads to the circular reasoning of intelligent design. The sequence 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 has no intrinsic meaning and has exactly the same probability as any other 7-digit combination of numbers. That sequence only has meaning if it continues to occur more than probability would predict.

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